When the weather gets cold, you know it's time to order your load of winter firewood from Kurtz Bros., Inc.— but that's just the first step! You also need to know how to prepare your fireplace so that you can use it safely to warm your home and cheer your evenings. Check out these tips for keeping your fireplace in good condition.
Clear the Area
Before you use your fireplace for the first time this winter, make sure that the area around it is clear. No stacks of magazines, extra blankets, throw rugs, or books should be nearby to catch fire in case of sparks or embers popping out.
A fire screen isn't an essential, but it can be useful to keep pets or young children away from the fire. Screens can also corral any stray embers or sparks, so if you're concerned about those issues, a screen might be the right choice for you. Plus, many homeowners enjoy having a decorative fire screen to conceal the fireplace area when it is not in use.
Check for Smoke
Many people love the smell of wood smoke, but it's not a good thing to have in your home! The smoke can affect breathing, and it's a sign that your chimney isn't venting properly. A chimney that doesn't suck the smoke upward but instead lets it fill the home could also be allowing dangerous gases like carbon monoxide to back up into your house. If your chimney and fireplace are "backdrafting" like this, you need to open the windows right away. Check to ensure that your flue is open, and then call an expert to identify the problem. You should also install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms if you don't already have them in place.
Ditch the Ashes
At the end of last cold season, you should have scraped all the ashes out of the fireplace. If you didn't, now is the time to get that old ash out of your fireplace and start fresh. Use a fireplace shovel and a bucket for the job. This winter, make sure that your fireplace ash doesn't get any thicker than about 2 inches.
Scrub the Soot
Do you have unsightly soot stains or scorch marks in your fireplace? You may want to remove those before you have your holiday parties! Get some warm, soapy water in a spray bottle and apply it generously to the marks. Leave it on for half an hour; then come back with a stiff wire brush and scrub until the marks are gone, at least till they are much less noticeable. In some cases, you may need to use muriatic acid to remove the stains. Since it's a harsh chemical, be sure to follow all safety instructions on the bottle.
Schedule an Inspection
Fireplace maintenance isn't too complicated unless your chimney starts to crack or your flue or damper malfunctions. Have a professional come to your home once in a while to check the chimney cap and screen, clean the chimney, check the brickwork, and examine the flashing between the chimney and the roof.
With the inspection done, the fireplace cleaned, and a fresh load of firewood from Kurtz Bros. in your shed, you're ready to enjoy your fireplace for the winter.